The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

A Diller, A Dollar, A Cost-Saving Scholar

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On Monday, July 22nd, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) co-hosted a lunch briefing with the Dollar Coin Alliance (DCA), of which CCAGW is a member.  The purpose of the briefing was twofold:  first, to reiterate the benefits and considerable cost savings to be realized by a transition from the dollar bill to a dollar coin, and second, to highlight the release of a related study by Aaron Klein, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and a past chief economist on the Senate’s banking committee.  His conclusion:  “…the budget impact of modernizing to the dollar coin is likely more than $13 billion in savings over 30 years.”

During his comments to the lunch attendees, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that, even in Washington, D.C., the estimated savings are not “chump change.”  Senator McCain, along with his Senate colleagues Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), are all co-sponsors of S. 1105, the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings (COINS) Act, which would improve the circulation of dollar coins.

Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), the honorary chairman of the Dollar Coin Alliance and a briefing panelist, identified inertia more than anything else as the most likely impediment to the proposed coin transition.  Indeed, he originally work on currency modernization with his fellow Arizonan, Rep. Morris “Mo” Udall (D-Ariz.)—father of the Colorado senator co-sponsoring the current legislation—when he first came to Congress in the 1980s.  And he is still working on it in 2013, in retirement from Congress.

But, given the fiscal woes of the current government, maybe the inertia is finally surmountable.

The title of Klein’s paper, “Time for Change:  Modernizing to the Dollar Coin Saves Taxpayers Billions,” encapsulates the whole point, one that has been made by CCAGW for some time.  The Dollar Coin Alliance is fortunate to have yet another affirmation of this policy objective, especially by such an accomplished subject-matter expert.  In the conclusion to the executive summary of the paper, Mr. Klein puts it simply, yet effectively:  “With both political parties currently focused on efforts to reduce the federal deficit, the dollar coin presents a unique opportunity for Congress to take action and produce billions in budget savings without raising a single tax or cutting a single program.”

The white paper succinctly argues the case in favor of this specific modernization.  From the beginning, savings to be achieved are carefully explained.  This section is followed by a description of benefits to business and to society.  If these two sections are not enough to satisfy skeptics, the third describes the successes of other major developed economies in transitioning their lower denomination notes to coins.  Indeed, the case of Canada’s currency transition is eye-opening:  our neighbors to the north saved ten times the initial estimates of the transition.  Finally, the paper concludes with a call for Congress to act now.  Politically, there is little opposition to such commonsense reform, especially when respondents are informed of the savings and benefits.  Failure to reap some of the lowest-hanging fruit available in the cost-savings orchard, for either sentimental reasons or simple inertia, serves no useful purpose.

As a panelist for the July 22nd briefing, I observed that those who would block currency reform are fast running out of excuses.  Once again, an in-depth study of taxpayer savings from eliminating the $1 bill in favor of the $1 coin has been conducted, and once again, the result is clear: eliminate the $1 bill and save billions.  The federal government should always be looking for ways to save money, and as the national debt approaches $17 trillion, the implications of Mr. Klein’s study amount to much more than pocket change.

 

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